The first cuts loom for many teams this week and Houston will begin to pare down from its 60 players in camp. With only a few spots open for debate on the 40-man and the ultimate 25-man, the urgency is ratcheting up for some players already. Long shots and even some bubble players may be headed for minor league camp as early as Thursday or Friday.
Jake Marisnick is spending most of the time in a center field audition and joins Marwin Gonzalez, Robbie Grossman and Jon Singleton with the most ABs (10) in the early going. Gonzalez would seem like a cinch to earn a roster spot, but remember, he was the final arbitration eligible player to settle and the team does have other options for bench roles.
What to watch for the next few days.
- Continue to see who get the ABs. And, where they play.
- The first cuts. Previously identified “long shots” may be among the first to go: Nolan Fontana, Colin Moran, Matt Duffy, Jordan Jankowski. Don’t be surprised if a bubble guy like James Hoyt, Sam Deduno or Jake Buchanan are also included in the mix.
- Manager A.J. Hinch‘s lineups. You should get a sense soon of which players may be lining up to hit in which spots soon. Jose Altuve may be a foregone conclusion, but the bigger question may be who hits third, fourth and fifth, though that could be somewhat interchangeable over the first month of the season.
- Injuries to other teams. While the Yu Darvish injury may not result in a trade with the Astros, other teams who experience similar losses may come calling on Houston’s surplus of outfielders or upside bench/role players.
Observations and thoughts.
- Should it be surprising that this big inning, home run heavy team has only one stolen base thus far in the spring?
- A trade seems almost inevitable, especially with an abundance of infield type bench role players and an overflow of third, fourth and fifth outfielders.
- Singleton still remains the key to the spring. With him on the roster, players like Grossman, Alex Presley or L.J. Hoes are expendable, either headed to Fresno or to the waiver wire.
- Who is Jason Martin? He’s a 19-year-old eighth round draft choice from 2013 and he seemed to just “show up” on the 40-man roster. Nothing in the transactions for the past seven months.
- Said earlier that one of the preseason battles would be between Singleton and Marisnick. The assumption was that only one might win a spot on the roster, but what happens if both make the roster? Who is squeezed out?
- Roberto Hernandez may have the inside track over Dan Straily for the #5 spot only because he has an opt out clause if he’s not on the roster five days before the season starts. Not to mention that Straily has options. Hernandez in the #5 with Straily starting in Fresno provides Houston the most depth. Unless, of course, Hernandez becomes a trade chip.
- If the Astros are to make a trade, Hernandez and Gonzalez may have value to other teams.